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#unitecloud

Moving Central Minnesota from "White Cloud" to #unitecloud

Photo of Natalie Ringsmuth
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

YES, CENTRAL MN IS EXPERIENCING CULTURAL, RELIGIOUS, AND RACIAL TENSIONS. Just a few decades ago, the St Cloud, MN area was all white, all Christian. Just this past year, our school district became majority students of color for the first time ever. These rapid changes have included a large population of Somali neighbors coming here mostly through primary refugee resettlement or secondary migration. Our current President proclaimed on the campaign trail that "Minnesota has suffered enough with thousands of Somalis coming here without your support of approval". This attitude, and the rise of anti-Muslim, anti-refugee sentiment kicked off a rise in hate crimes and hate speech in our state, causing neighbors to live in fear of one another. So what can we do about it? We believe that by working together as a community we can make a difference. Through education, facts, stories from the community, and action steps, we are being the change that is bringing our community closer together. Often we see that misinformation and dehumanizing stereotypes cause people to make untrue assumptions of our neighbors. By telling our stories, we give a face to the mariginalized in our community and show people that there is more to each issue than meets the eye.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

#unitecloud focuses mostly on Central Minnesota, an area of mostly rural and a few suburban city centers. Because of our focused, welcoming work, we have garnered national attention, speaking at nationwide conferences and events throughout the Midwest. Through our social media channels, many Somalis in the worldwide diaspora have messaged us and said that, because of our work, they are not as worried about their friends and family members living in the St Cloud area.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

The main focus of our work is around thise question: WHO IS YOUR NEIGHBOR? We acknowledge that we all have biases and that they influence how we treat each other. We encourage understanding in that you don’t have to agree with your neighbor’s lifestyle to promote a culture of respect - and you don’t have to agree on anything to be kind. Our commonality is based in our humanness.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

–OUR MISSION– #unitecloud provides education and actionable steps to resolve tension and restore dignity to all people in Central MN. Through community conversations, both on social media and in person, we are moving the majority group in our community (white Christians) out of indifference and into action. We explain that indifference is acceptance of the suffering that your neighbor is experiencing based on their culture, religion, race, or any other line of difference. We lead people along our unique continuom of social change - listen, learn, talk, and then act! As well, we are amplifying marginalized voices in our community through exhibits like our "Green Card Voices" display and partnering with artists like James Bowey to bring in his "Refugee Portrait Exhibit". Our leadership team (#unitecloud board, as well as our speaking and writing team) is made up of neighbors from many different countries who now call Central MN home.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

–OUR VISION– #unitecloud seeks to foster an empathetic community that chooses to stand up for one another regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, or socio-economic background. We believe that our commitment to this vision will lead to a sense of greater safety and hope and a decrease in fear and suspicion of those who are different from us.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

The St Cloud area has been a focus of negative news when it come to racial, cultural, and religious tension. (Recent New York Times article "These People Aren't Coming from Norway - Refugees in a Minnesota City Face Backlash": https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/20/us/politics/minnesota-refugees-trump.html) This negative news, along with instances of hate and fear across our city and state leadership have caused economic instability in our area due to our reputation of being a racist, unwelcoming city. A couple years ago, a City Councilman in St. Cloud attempted to pass a resolution to stop refugee resettlement in St. Cloud. We organized against this effort and instead, another Councilman wrote a "Welcoming Resolution" which passed, while the anti-refugee resolution failed. We will continue to fight as a city and as an area to ensure that ALL are welcome here.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

While we are working hard to ensure that ALL are welcome in our area, we are bombarded with instances of hate and fear-mongering. Churches hosting anti-Muslim meetings, purporting that "One day, all Muslims will rise up and kill your children and grandchildren". Cab drivers are choked by their passengers simply for being Muslim. A friend of #unitecloud had a beer mug smashed across her face for speaking Swahilli when out to dinner with her family. Muslim women are told to "take off their hijab if (you) are really American. Anti-Muslim billboards have been erected on personal property and alongside major hiways. Neighbors who stand up to this hate have their doors smashed in or are attacked in parking garages or parking lots and are sent death threats through voicemail, email and online. These community upstanders are now suffering with head injuries, anxiety and PTSD.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Over 5,000 people follow #unitecloud on social media. Over 750 people have put "Love Your Neighbor" signs in their business or yard/home. People are running for office - local and statewise - on the idea that "When we all do better we all do better". We are seeing a fight for the idea of "MN Nice" to be one of true welcoming. We have the necessary strength of character here to become a truly welcoming area - we just need help with building our capacity.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

We are proud to partner with national organizations like Welcoming America and statewide organizations like CAIR-MN (Council on American-Islamic Relations), MN Council of Churches, Islamic Resource Group, and others. Locally, we parter with United Way, Lutheran Social Services of MN, Arrive Ministries, Asamblea De Deroches Civilies, and many businesses and faith centers.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Other

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Early Adoption: We have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have proof of user uptake (i.e. 16% to 49% of the target population or 1,000 to 50,000 users).

Group or Organization Name

Unite Cloud

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

To view our leadership team, click this link: https://unitecloud.org/staff/ To read stories written by our leadership team and people in our community over the last 4 years, click here: https://unitecloud.org/blog/ We are the right organization to solve the problem of hate and fear in our country becuase we have an amazing team of people from all around the world who now call Central MN home. We are the go-to organization in Central MN for folks to move out of indifference and into action to get to know their neighbors, love their neighbors, and stand up for their neighbors.

Website URL:

www.unitecloud.org

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States

Organization Headquarters: City / State

St Cloud, MN

7 comments

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Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Dear Natalie Ringsmuth 

Great to have your idea for the challenge. I'm really impressed by the progress your project has made so far, and the impact it has already achieved.

Building on Bremley Lyngdoh 's comments, I wonder if you can share a little bit on some successes the project has made so far and some learnings you have had.

With regards to the community meetups, conversations and events, are they guided through any toolkits and resources? If yes, what tools and resources do you share with the community? How does your program move just from being an advocacy/campaign to inspiring actions among the community members?

You might also want to check out Suzanne Koepplinger 's idea on Building Resilience and Hope in the Somali Diaspora  - and Patti Walsh 's idea on CAIR-Minnesota's Building Youth Power Initiative  wonder if there might be potential areas of collaboration given your geographies and target communities.

Excited to see the idea's progress

Photo of Suzanne Koepplinger
Team

It is exciting to see all this good work in Minnesota! The Muslim Chaplaincy program currently being implemented by Imam Sharif Mohamed and Open Path Resources includes targeted skill and leadership development in St. Cloud as well as the Twin Cities.

Photo of Natalie Ringsmuth
Team

Thanks, Isaac, for your feedback. And thank you, Suzanne, for your important work!

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